Summary: Real life means we will have difficult times in life.
First Baptist Church
June 23, 2002
Paul Rasmussen was an associate pastor when the senior pastor asked Paul to fill in as the "Interim Youth Minister" until they could find another one.
One week later, Paul found himself with a bunch of senior high youth getting ready to go white water rafting down the Ocohee River in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Paul said he supposed this fell in his contract under the phrase, "Other duties as assigned." The kids were very excited and looking forward to this trip. . . Paul wasn’t! He was dreading the white water rafting experience for 3 reasons: "First, I don’t like to swim at all. Second, I don’t like to be cold. And third, I’ve seen the movie Deliverance." Things got worse when the guides arrived. Most of them were seasoned veterans. One guy had been doing this for over 20 years and in 20 years his boat had capsized only twice. But did Paul and his group get him? Nope. They got a guy who called himself, "Fuzz."
Fuzz was a free-spirited college student who had been a river guide for less than a week. Paul said as soon as he saw Fuzz, his first thought was, "Abort!" They rafted Class 3, 4, and 5 rapids — which means bad, real bad, and real, real, bad! Paul fell out of the boat three times. The water was freezing and as he was bouncing around in the rocks and the rapids, he said he felt like a human pinball machine. He admits thinking un-Christian thoughts about Fuzz… and about the senior minister. After his 2nd fall, he was certain vultures were circling overhead.
The 3rd time Paul fell out wasn’t his fault. About 5 miles into the trip, for no apparent reason, Fuzz did the unexpected. Right in the middle of a real bad rapid called "Hell’s Hole," Fuzz stood up in the boat, jumped straight up into the air, and disappeared into the river. He was gone – lifejacket and all.
Meanwhile, Paul and the kids tried to navigate "Hell’s Hole" and within seconds they flipped over and everyone fell into the river. About a minute or so later, Fuzz shot back up out of the water, not too far from where he jumped in. It was absolute chaos. Two other boats had to come to the rescue of Paul and the youth. When they finally got everybody safely back on shore, Paul asked, "Fuzz, what in the world were you thinking?" Fuzz said, "You don’t understand. That’s the best part of the river. That’s where the vortex is."
Fuzz explained, "Right at that point in the river, the water churns like a water tornado. The vortex is like the eye of the storm. If you can jump out just right and hit the vortex (even with your life jacket on) you can drift peacefully to the bottom in 8 feet of water." Fuzz said, "It’s amazing. It’s so peaceful down there. There’s turbulence all around you, but there in the vortex, it’s so peaceful, calm & serene."
If you’re in a vortex, you can stay down there as long as you want to – except for one thing. . . you can’t breathe! At some point, no matter how great the sensation, you have to leave the vortex and come up for air, and the only way to do that is to reenter the turbulence and it shoots you right back up to the surface, and you can breathe again. The vortex feels pleasant for a short while, but if you stay there, you drown. The only way to survive is to get back into the turbulence.
The truth is that many people go through life like that – looking for the vortex, even if it means deserting the people they are responsible to and for, trying to escape the turbulence of life, trying to find that quiet, serene place where all is calm and peaceful. Many of us want it and long for it. We’re looking for the vortex. We dream of that safe place that’s protected from the turbulence of hardships, challenges, and problems of the world. And the bad news is people and companies are selling it in the form of alcohol, affairs, drugs, pornography & credit card debt. Even off brand religions offer some easy quick-fix plan for $19.00 down and $19.00 a month.
But, the problem is that the vortex won’t last! No matter how great the sensation may feel in the short run, it never ever lasts! At some point, you have to come up for air. You can’t stay there. If you do, you smother and suffocate.
What’s the point . . . real life is in the turbulence. Now, of course, even Jesus had moments when he needed quiet time, time apart, time away, time to meditate, to think and pray, but remember, He didn’t stay there. He came back to live in the turbulence. He came back to help people with their hurts, struggles and problems.